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of Broadway by the Bay, has this really great laugh
I first met Amanda Folena during Broadway by the Bay's production of "The Full Monty." When I first saw her on stage, I thought to myself, "What in the world is my long time friend Laura doing up on stage? I didn't know she was acting!"
Amanda looks eerily similar to one of my friends -- her demeanor, her looks, her hair, her voice -- it's uncanny!
That was the last time I had any interaction with her until we learned that she had been named the new artistic director for Broadway by the Bay, one of my longtime clients. Although this profile series primarily features those behind the curtain, my own experience with Amanda has been primarily as artistic director, despite our initial meeting with her in the footlights.
In her new role as Broadway by the Bay's artistic director, I was immediately struck with her passion and enthusiasm for theatre. The enthusiasm she exhibited for her new responsibilities was infectious and I was immediately impressed with her vision and demeanor. It was then when I knew she'd make an excellent profile article, but due to scheduling conflicts, it's taken us until now for us to sit down and chat.
Amanda is a Bay Area native who grew up in San Jose. Her paternal grandparents live in San Francisco. She is the eldest of two children. Here brother is three years younger. He lives in Denver and is a financial manager for the local NBC Denver affiliate.
It was no surprise to hear that Amanda is the first born, since she exhibits all of the normal first-born qualities - she is responsible, a pleaser and driven. (Yes, I'm a first-born too, but in every generalization there are exceptions!) Her parents sent her to Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose. Amanda's parents apparently knew her passion for theatre, because at the mature age of 3 she began to sing show tunes! For those lucky few who know what we want to do from birth, life's path seems easy. Such was and is the case with Amanda! Ever the classic overachiever, she secured several voice-over roles while she was in high school.
From Archbishop Mitty HS, she had her sights set on attending NYU, but her dream college plans didn't work out, so instead she attended USC in Southern California. (Too bad she had to slum it in college, eh?) In her own words, Amanda's parents "sacrificed a LOT" to put her through college, and like my own daughter, Amanda graduated in four years to gain her undergraduate BA degree. One would think that with her drive toward the arts, Amanda would have wanted to achieve a BFA. Ever the first born, she felt that the classes she wanted to attend to give herself a more well-rounded background included courses not required for a BFA. So what did she do? She took more classes than what was required for a BFA by attending BA courses. In 2003, she won the coveted Jack Nicolson award, the very first woman to win his scholarship who was not a BFA undergrad.
From there, she attended Purdue University for her graduate degree. Keep in mind that Purdue only accepts 8 students every three years. It was at Purdue where she met her future husband, Justin. They've been married three and a half years now.
I just had to ask this classic overachiever what she does to relax --. cooking, specifically pies (ooh, too bad she's married!) reading and walking. One of the most admirable qualities I've personally experienced working with Amanda is her commitment to collaboration. I have certainly encountered enough driven and talented people in my life to know that many talk about collaboration, yet control is tough for many of those to relinquish. During our publicity sessions, both in planning stages and during the actual shoots, Amanda has always asked for our opinions on how we feel the shoot should go, and incorporates our ideas. Her words to us on so many occasions: "I want you and Tracy to do YOUR art, I trust you."
Actions have always spoken volumes to me about a person, much more so than their vocabulary. In the very wise words of my father, "Son, behavior indicates personality. Watch people, watch what they do. You'll learn about their strength in times of adversity and you'll witness their character in times of prosperity."
I have always heeded his advice and I can simply say I've watched Amanda in both situations. She has the strength of titanium combined with the character of a giver.
Oh yes, she can talk, but her words match her actions. The community of theatre is lucky to have her on our side.